It’s easy to forget how deeply disappointment can be felt as a child.
As a thirtysomething dad (thirty-nine and a half still qualifies), disappointment for me is largely due to my own cynicism and grumpiness. A splash of sarcasm is all that stands between me and an eternally miserable old git.
To use a footballing analogy, I stood on the terraces of Oxford United watching my beloved Man City lose 3-0, without a shot on target in ninety bitterly cold and wet minutes, in the old third division. Nowadays a defeat in the Champions League is met with little more than a shrug.
Disappointment is contextual.
For the boys though, their disappointment is undiluted. The years ahead of them unfathomable, their memories short. It’s all about the here and now.
Fortunately I can still empathise. My childhood memories of disappointment are still fresh. I’m a child of the late seventies, the only time I heard the word closure was when it preceded the sentence ‘… mouth when you’re eating’.
I can remember sat beside my new Humpty Dumpty. THE Humpty Dumpty from Play School; or so I thought.
There I was, excitedly waiting to see how the dynamics of the show would work without him, when he appeared on-screen next to Hamble and Big Ted. I was devastated. The realisation that all I had (and even now I find this difficult to write) …. was a replica soft toy.
To make matters worse he chose to go through the square window having only moments earlier promising me he’d choose the round one? Turncoat.
I’m glad he had a great fall. Had he not I’d have pushed him anyway. I like to think all the kings horses and all the kings men could have put him back together again but just chose not to. Not that I’m bitter or anything.
Then there was the time I went to see Grease at the cinema.
I can remember it like it was yesterday. The darkness, the velvet chairs, a gigantic screen, and the volume that came at me from every angle. It was really exciting, and as the cartoon-style opening credits faded to reveal John Travolta I threw the mother of all tantrums. A tantrum I’m still unapologetic for. If you trick me into thinking I’m about to watch a cartoon only to snatch it away at the last-minute then you get what you deserve.
What were my mum and dad thinking anyway? I was four-years old. Four! Had they not heard of a babysitter?
Finally there was the time my dad entered me into a race during a street party for the wedding of Charles and Diana.
Sporting greatness beckoned as I raced into an unassailable lead, only to have it cruelly swept away from under my feet, literally, by a lost plimsole.
In hindsight I could have finished bare foot but instead went back to get it. No one waited. By the time I’d put it back on and rejoined the race I was competing with different kids on space hoppers. They’d not even bothered to wait for me to finish.
All simple things that through the eyes of a young child are gut-wrenching, yet as an adult are difficult to comprehend.
Now I can see similar situations being experienced by the boys. For some I’m culpable, others not, but either way I can at least feel their pain.
We went to Sea-Life last week. As we got dressed on the morning of the trip I asked them what they were most looking forward to seeing.
“Rhino’s”, shouted Sonny excitedly
“Giraffe’s”, was Luca’s response.
Disappointment is my middle name.
They’ve also had their ‘Grease’ moment. For them it was Star Wars.
As they sat crossed legged, excitedly discussing which part they were most looking forward to, I saw the disappointment wash over them as they realised it wasn’t a cartoon, nor made from LEGO, and worse still didn’t include a single angry bird!
Recently Sonny had lost his gloves.
“Don’t worry, we’ll find them. I’ll turn the house upside down.”
I returned from the kitchen to find them both stood in the front garden.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“I don’t want to be in the house when it’s upside down” was Luca’s panicky response.
“Can I help you lift it?” was Sonny’s reply.
They actually think I’m capable of lifting a house!
This week we also stumbled across Father Christmas in the town centre, or rather he stumbled into us. He smelt like he’d spent last years redundancy on sherry.
He was grumpy. Very, very grumpy. He’d run out of presents to give out, and I don’t want to sound elfist, but his assistant’s costume definitely fell on the wrong side of slutty.
The boys weren’t impressed.
And herein lies the problem. I can prepare them for disappointment, empathise, even turn a blind eye to the odd tantrum, but dealing with disappointment is all part of growing up.
That’s not to say I can’t soften the blow though.
I spent an entire afternoon building them their very own Death Star out of LEGO, just so they could smash it up with makeshift angry birds.
They still think I can lift a house. I cried off citing a bad back. I’ll buy him some new gloves.
Yesterday we visited the ‘real’ Father Christmas at a local garden centre. He was lovely, and sober.
And if they decide to support City I can take comfort from the fact I endured the worst years in the clubs history on their behalf, just so they can now enjoy the glory.
Who knows, it may even make up for the lack of elephants at Sea-Life?